Favorite 2-4 Mile Hikes

The Pool
location: Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) in Moraine Valley area
trailhead/parking: Fern Lake trailhead has a small non-paved parking area. The road leading to the trailhead becomes narrow for two-way vehicle traffic. There is shuttle service and some additional parking .8 miles away from the trailhead.
distance: 1.7 miles each way
elevation start: 8,150 ft
elevation gain:  150 ft
level of difficulty: Starting at a lower elevation, this is a pretty doable hike for all ages and skill levels. We will probably carry our infant and have our toddler walk some and ride in the carrier some of the way.
landmarks: trail follows Big Thompson River, Arch Rocks are massive rock formations located 1.2 miles into hike, The Pool is most impressive when water is plentiful, like spring snow-melt or after a good rain.

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Dream Lake
location: RMNP
trailhead/parking: Bear Lake has a ranger station, non-flushing toilets and waste receptacles
There is a large parking lot that fills up quickly. Bear Lake is also a shuttle stop on the Bear Lake Route which is open May 27-October 9 and stops every 10-15 minutes from 7am to 7:30pm
distance: 1.1 miles each way
elevation start: 9,475 ft
elevation gain: 425 ft
level of difficulty: my toddler would not make it far on this hike because it starts out with a pretty steep incline so we use a child carrier.
landmarks: Nymph Lake which is known for its pond lilies is half way point on this hike. The extra distance to Dream Lake is worth it. Enjoy great views of Hallett and Flattop Mountain

Emerald Lake
location: RMNP
trailhead/parking: Bear Lake
distance: 1.8 miles each way
elevation start: 9,475 ft
elevation gain: 650 ft
level of difficulty: this hike starts out with a pretty steep incline in pretty high elevation, but there are several really nice landmarks to stop and rest along the way
landmarks: You pass by Nymph Lake and Dream Lake on the way to Emerald Lake; stunning mountain views

Bierstadt Lake
location: RMNP
trailhead/parking: Bierstadt Trailhead has a small parking area which is serviced by the Bear Lake Route shuttle that makes stops every 10 – 15 minutes daily May 27 – October 9. You can find additional parking at the park and ride and have the shuttle drop you off at the trail head.

distance: 1.3 miles each way
elevation start: 8,860 ft
elevation gain: 556
level of difficulty: There are several ways to get to Bierstadt Lake, but this route is my favorite. The trail leads uphill with gentle switch backs and great mountain vistas. It heads into the woods for the last few tenths of a mile and opens up to the lake with impressive mountain views. We put our toddler in a child carrier and let her get out by the lake to stretch her legs and eat a snack. We’ve also used snow shoes to hike this during the winter.

If you leave from Bear Lake TH the hike is a little longer but in some ways easier because you are going mostly down hill (after the first burst to get on to the trail). The negative of going down hill is the best view of the mountains will be at your back. On your return hike, you could turn back to hike uphill or go down to the Bierstadt Lake trailhead and take the shuttle to your parking spot.
landmarks:  you can add the .8 mile loop trail around the lake for more great views of surrounding mountains
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Calypso Cascades
location: Rocky Mountain National Park in the Wild Basin Area located approximately 19 miles south of Estes Park on highway 7
trailhead/parking: the Wild Basin area is more remote than other areas of the park. Drive down narrow dirt roads to get to the Wild Basin trail head. There is no shuttle service in this area of the park.
distance: 1.8 miles each way
elevation start: 8,500 ft
elevation gain: 780
level of difficulty: After you pass Copeland Falls, the trail gains some good elevation. We use a child carrier for most of the hike.
landmarks: Copeland Falls (lower and upper), Calypso Cascades waterfall, several wooden bridges cross over streams, very lush and wooded trail

Wild Basin

Gem Lake
location: RMNP north from downtown Estes Park, CO on MacGregor Avenue.
trailhead/parking: Lumpy Ridge Trailhead has a pretty good sized parking area
distance: 1.6 miles each way
elevation start: 7,800 ft
elevation gain: 1,000 ft
level of difficulty: Parts of this hike have a pretty steep incline but the overall distance is pretty short and Gem Lake is a great place to take a breather.
landmarks: Amazing views of Estes Park and surrounding mountains, Interesting rock formations like ‘Paul Bunyon’s boot’ (pictured below), Gem Lake is small but the unique surroundings make it memorable

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